Following on from 2018’s award-winning Drowning In Plastic, animal biologist and meat-eater, Liz Bonnin, investigates what our hunger for meat is doing to our planet.
Liz begins her journey in Texas, on a vast intensive farm with 50,000 cows. Global meat consumption is projected to grow by around 50% over the next few decades, and mega-farms like this will become much more common. On the farm, Liz learns that cows belch out huge amounts of methane, an incredibly potent greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change.
She then travels to North Carolina to investigate the environmental effect of millions of tonnes of animal waste. Across the world, farmed animals produce three billion tonnes of manure every year, which is polluting the land and water, destroying biodiversity and contributing to ‘dead zones’ in the oceans, where most marine life cannot survive.
Liz’s investigation also takes her to Brazil, home to the largest cattle herd in the world. On a flight over the Amazon, she discovers that 20% of the forest has been destroyed and that cattle farming is the leading cause of this deforestation – we’re now losing two football pitches every single minute and devastating the region’s wildlife. Scaling a 30-metre tree, Liz comes face to face with a baby harpy eagle, whose future hangs in the balance as her prey is driven out of the Amazon.
In South Africa, Liz discovers how meat is even affecting life in the oceans. Anchovies and sardines are caught and turned into fishmeal to feed livestock, depriving the African penguin of its food source. Liz works with scientists trying to save starving penguin chicks and learns that the species faces extinction.
Is this environmental crisis enough to stop the world eating meat? A fiery encounter with a beef lobbyist in Texas persuades Liz that is never going to happen. So what is the solution? At a university in California, Liz joins a bizarre study that means she must put her hand directly into the stomach of a cow. Scientists may be on the verge of an astonishing breakthrough that would reduce the amount of methane cattle produce.
Liz investigates another solution in San Francisco, where chicken is being grown not on a farm but in a petri dish in a bioreactor. This product is a long way off being commercially available, and perhaps there’s a simpler solution. Liz finishes her investigation on a smallholding in Wales. She meets a family who have fundamentally shifted their relationship with meat by taking the bold step to slaughter their own animals. When Liz witnesses a chicken being killed for dinner, it forces her to reassess her own attitude to meat and question what we can all do to save our fragile planet.
You can watch the episodes here : www.bbc.co.uk